Thankfully, some of the larger studios are beginning to produce films that are either good old-fashioned family films, or are films touting religious value and piety. Walden Media, who were behind such films as Holes and How to Eat Fried Worms, have produced and released another film with similar concepts behind them, a charming little piece of celluloid entitled Hoot.
Based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen and adapted to film and directed by Wil Shriner (Peggy Sue Got…Married), Hoot tells the story of Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman, The Patriot), whose family frequently moves because of his father’s (Neil Flynn, Scrubs) job with the Department of Justice. Roy was finally getting settled in Montana when the family had to pack up and relocate to the dingy, grimy Florida coast, where he immediately runs into Dana Matherson (Eric Phillips), the school bully. After accidentally breaking his nose, he runs into a female soccer player named Beatrice, a.k.a. Beatrice the Bear (Brie Larson, 13 Going on 30). Beatrice is formidable in her own right, but she manages to have some sort of control over Dana. On Roy’s first day of school, he notices a kid with blond hair running alongside the bus in bare feet, a kid he would later find out is nicknamed “Mullet Fingers” (Cody Linley, Cheaper by the Dozen). The kid is trying to sabotage the development and groundwork for a new restaurant that is opening in town, because some owls have burrowed some holes in the ground and taken shelter there. The lot’s custodian named Curly (Tim Blake Nelson, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) is dealing with the issue, and periodically has to report it to the local police, mainly Officer Delinko (Luke Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums).
Among the surprises in this film, aside from the big one where Wilson is playing a supporting role in a family film, is that musician Jimmy Buffett, he of parrothead lore. Buffet was the executive producer for the film and also played Roy’s teacher in the film, who teaches (appropriately enough) marine studies.
Above all else, the kids turn in pleasing performances, as do the adults, what the story was one that can easily appeal to any age group. Now that may sound hackneyed to say, but you’re reading a review from a married guy with no kids in his 30s who has a fondness for war films, and this film keeps all of the characters on a level playing field (except for Curly a little bit), but the underlying theme of the film (not that you didn’t see it coming), was the power of conservation and preservation of natural environments, and the animals that reside therein. However, it doesn’t club you over the head with any sort of extremist propaganda, and just keeps the message at its essence, and it’s enjoyable to watch.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen viewing, Hoot is a little bit darker picture color wise than I was expecting. Not in the sense of the picture, because it was reproduced OK, with ever-present film grain throughout, but you’d think a movie based in Florida would have some more yellows and blues in them. The golf courses look vibrantly green, the sunsets look great, but maybe I was expecting a little more than what’s here.
Given the choice of a 5.1 surround and a regular stereo track, I took a chance to listen to the surround track, and it was pretty good, as most New Line sound mixes are. There’s ample use of the surrounds (when characters announce their presence in a scene, like when Roy goes to Mullet Fingers’ “home”, you hear that, for example), and even some subwoofer work when the bulldozer gets fired up near the end. It was a much better presentation than I expected.
Hoot is another one in the New Line “Platinum Series” of films, remember when that was a big deal? Seriously though, there’s a bunch of extras to whet anyone’s whistle. Liaasen and Shriner team up for a commentary track, where they recall certain aspects of the production, and talk about the cast and how they were able to interact with everyone. There are gaps where the two don’t speak and are watching the film (which always annoys me), but there are also other times where they talk about any relevant comparisons to the book. It’s not a bad commentary by any means, but it’s certainly not a keeper. Following that are six deleted scenes with optional commentary that run about 5 minutes total, most of them focusing on the character exposition of Mullet Fingers (can I say that this is the first time I’ve put those words together in that order, ever? Someone give me a medal for that). There’s a quick blooper reel whose memorable highlights appear to be a falling pay phone and a urinating alligator. Next are several features on habitat preservation and what you, yes you, can do to create and maintain an animal habitat. There is a look at the animals used in the film, along with a trip to an animal center that admittedly, starts to become damn depressing after awhile. Following those features are a couple of production featurettes that focus on the young stars of the film, not to mention Hiaasen’s book. And there are a couple more on Buffett’s thoughts as a big time Hollywood producer and Shriner’s thoughts as a big time studio director, and wrapping things up are some DVD-ROM games for your eyes and ears to enjoy.
Any time where I can go into a film with no expectations and wind up being both surprised and pleased by its outcome, I’ve got to give the film a hearty recommendation, which I do. There’s a lot of kid-friendly material, not to mention a little more for the adults, and it’s a more complete package than you’d normally expect. A definite recommendation as a kids or family film in your library.
Special Features List
- Director//Writer Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Nature/Wildlife Featurettes
- Making of Featurettes
- DVD-Rom Material